Part 7 — Dr. Michael Behe, Dr. Kenneth Miller Q&A

ES:
Okay, now, now we will play musical podiums and I'll ask Mike to come over to this podium. Ken Miller will question, uh Mike for fifteen minutes, and, um [pause], Mike will retrieve his water glass. I'm a heavy drinker myself; I carry one of these around with me at all times. We shall also play musical power points here. [long pause]

KM:
Okay, Mike, you made a, a central claim. And the central claim was that the machinery of the cell, you mentioned the bacterial flagellum, the eukaryotic cilium, in your writings you've mentioned the blood clotting cascade, were intelligently designed. We know that because these are all by your definition irreducibly complex systems, and another example of an irreducibly complex system is a mousetrap. As I understand the reasoning behind intelligent design, I want to ask you if I've got it right here, um the evidence for design of course is at the bottom of this four step statement. We'll start at the top. The cell contains a biochemical machines in which if you can lose a single component it will abolish function, and that's your definition of irreducibly complex. I agree with you by the way that's correct. So I will stipulate number one is right. Number two, you said that any irreducibly complex structure that is missing a part is by definition non-functional, and that leaves natural selection with nothing to select for. Do you agree that that's an important part of the reasoning?

MB:
Uh, No, the underlying part is your words, not mine. Uh, um. We, we've done this before folks, Ken and I, a number of times. [laughter] And , uh , he's going to say that there are other, other functions that can, somebody turned off my microphone [laughter]. But that there are other functions that can be selected for, such as...well,

KM:
I, I just want to know if statement number two is a fair representation of your reasoning.

MB:
Uh, No. It's not.

KM:
Okay. Well can you explain that because that's pretty much what you said? Any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional. You said it.

MB:
Okay. Uh, Here is what I meant, and I think it's clear from my book. It's that the system itself has a function. The mousetrap, you know, can catch mice. Okay, uh, if you take apart the mousetrap, you know, you can, you know, hammer the mousetrap to your door and use it as a doorknocker, or something like that. So, but the, the point is that the system itself is not functional. Yes, that's it.

KM:
Okay. Then you say, therefore, since there's no function, irreducibly complex structures cannot be produced by natural selection, and therefore, they must be the product of design, since natural selection is the only alternative. Have I got it right?

MB:
Well, uh, again, not quite. I don't really mean to quibble with you, but uh, I do not say that just because they can't be produced natural selection, they're uh, products of intelligent design. I try to go through the logic in my own non-philosopher way towards the end of the book, about how we come to a conclusion of design, and try to show that our, the systems meet that.

KM:
Okay, what you said of course is this, again your words again: "A biological system cannot be produced gradually; it has to arise in an integrated unit in one fell swoop, for the natural selection of anything to act on." That's on the basis of which I put those four together.

MB:
Yes and later, in a later chapter, if you remember I talked about Stuart Kauffman's work where he talks about complexity theory which he thinks can produce systems in one fell swoop, but not by intelligent design, Lynn Margulies' ideas of symbiosis which could produce, uh, new functions, but not by intelligent design, so I was just making the more limited point that you would have to get all the parts together for something to act on, and it's only later on, like in chapter 9 or so, that I argue for intelligent design.

KM:
Okay, my, my point is that statement number two is really the core of your argument and what I want to do is move ahead and examine that. Then again, this concept of irreducible complexity, here's your definition of it again, several closely matched parts in order to function, the removal of one of the components causes the system to stop functioning. It's very very clear. Now, um, the the the the poster child for irreducible complexity clearly is the bacterial flagellum, both of you mentioned it. Um, Bill has it on the cover of his books, um. My friend David Derosier has written that it almost resembles a machine designed by a human and about fifty genes are particular to the the flagellum and its chemosensory machinery. I think it is an extraordinary structure. I, I, I, I agree with you completely on that, and I think so do all biologists who have looked at it. However, Here's the point. Let's suppose we start, we test your idea of irreducible complexity. We start with a fifty part bacterium, fifty part bacterial flagellum, we take away forty of the parts, and what that does is it leaves just ten parts behind. And the ten are shown right there in this little structure. Those ten parts ought to be non-functional by your definition of irreducible complexity. But it turns out, as you know that they are not. Those ten parts turn out to form the type three secretory system. And here's, and again, here's your statement. "Any precursor to an IC system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional"...

ES:
There is a question here?

KM:
Here is, here is a point that is by definition non-functional. Doesn't that mean the idea of irreducible complexity is wrong?

MB:
Well, uh, No, um. For some reason that I was trying to say before, the function of the system is to be a rotary whip and to propel the bacterium or to, uh to uh push liquid over top of it. This does not have that function.

KM:
It has a different one.

MB:
That's correct, it does. Hold on a second though. Let me say a couple of things before we proceed. First of all, [clears throat], uh, it doesn't have the same protein. It has proteins which are homologous to the, some of the proteins...

KM:
Strongly homologous.

MB:
That's correct, okay. Well, it's homologous. And again, with the results from that paper that I cited, it's no longer something safe to say that we can be sure that we started from this homologue, went to this one via Darwinian process. And that's one thing...

KM:
I didn't raise the issue of process Mike, all I said was here is a subset of the parts, they work!

MB:
Well, yeah. The problem comes in when you say a subset of the parts, because the amino acid sequence of these things are different. And not only that, I mean...

KM:
Just different enough to tell them apart.

MB:
Not only that but it also has other proteins which work with a type three secretory system. Uh, so this does not form a complete, uh, complete system. A second thing, point which might be relevant for the audience to consider is that I, I think where Ken's going with this is, he's going to say well, maybe we could start out with something like this...

KM:
No that's not where I'm going. [laughter]

MB:
Okay, well, let me say it anyway. Let's start with something...

KM:
I didn't realize you got to make another statement. I, I just meant to question you. Please don't ask, answer a question I'm not going to ask.

MB:
Okay, Go ahead.

KM:
So the point stands that a subset of these proteins is functional in a different context. Now that's the bacterial flagellum, let's look a couple of the other guys. Let's look at the clotting pathway, this is the way in which blood clots, you call this the Rube Goldberg in the blood, great stuff, and the clotting pathway is extremely complex. It produces a clot around the red blood cell, and what you wrote is, in your book is that none of the cascade proteins, these proteins, are used for anything except controlling the formation of clots, that's very clear. Yet, in the absence of any of the components blood does not clot and the system fails. Now here's the, the hard part for me. Remember you said, in the absence of any of the components, blood does not clot and the system fails. One of those components that you've talked about is called factor 12 or Hagemann factor, and you'd think, if we take it away, the system should fail, so there shouldn't be any living organisms that are missing Hagemann factor, but it turns out, uh, lo and behold, that there are some organisms that are missing Hagemann factor, I've crossed them off up there, and those organisms turn out to be, dolphins and porpoises, they don't have, um, I assume that statement therefore is incorrect and has to be changed?

MB:
Well, first of all let me express my condolences for the dolphins. Umm...[laughter]

KM:
You don't have to have to do condolences they do fine. That's my point. It's the theory of irreducible complexity that needs condolences at this point, [laughter/ applause] because that's what's happening.

MB:
Well, if you read my book a little more closely, you'll see that I talk about both the intrinsic and extrinsic pathway, I say that they can use both of them. And, uh, you'll see that when I talk about irreducible complexity I say, the details of the pathway, beyond uh christmas factor and so on, are rather vague, so let's uh, so I said I'll, we'll confine my argument to those. But nonetheless...

KM:
Yeah but your own words are up here and you point out Hageman factor, factor 12 and so forth, so they're part of that system.

MB:
Well, um, nonetheless, let me point out that if you do delete prothrombin if you delete tissue factor, you end up with this.

KM:
I'm asking you about Hageman factor. I'm not deleting those. My question is straightforward. You said you couldn't delete them, nature's done the experiment, it deleted them, doesn't that disprove the hypothesis?... and you're talking about deleting other ones?

MB:
You're right there are redundant components in the blood clotting system...

KM:
So it's not irreducibly complex?

MB:
In the same sense that a rattrap is not, that's correct.

KM:
Okay, so, so again, your use of that as an irreducible complex system breaks down upon inspection. Now let's look at the cilium, because you've said how, indeed how beautiful this structure is and let's take away not one part, not two, not three, not four, let's take away five and the parts that I've just X'ed out here, and that would include the central doublet, the outer dynein arms, the cross bridges, and a whole series of other components. And that's what we'd be left with. And once again, nature has done the experiment. Your system, you called it irreducibly complex, any irreducibly complex system missing a part is by definition non-functional, we take away the parts, and does it work? Well, that's a cross section of the flagellum of an eel sperm, and whatever else one thinks about eels, and some people in the audience may have strong feelings about them, [laughter] eel sperm is fully functional, because it's job is to make baby eels and it's good at it. Um, we uh, what does one do when one is told a system is irreducibly complex, find systems missing parts, and their still working?

MB:
Well, one reads a little more closely and one sees that I said in my book that uh, it, it was required you have, uh, to have microtubules, linkers and motor proteins...

KM:
Indeed

MB:
And indeed, I pictured and as a matter of fact, I, I showed the picture from my book here, that in fact all of those structures have those, and the experiment has been done...

KM:
Okay, so, the actual irreducibly complex system is smaller than this. A smaller core, right?

MB:
And if you take away one of those components, then the uh, the system fails.

KM:
Okay, very good. Now, um, one of the things I like about your ideas is that they provided us a test, an empirical test for the idea of intelligent design. And, once again, I maintain, even though I think both you and Bill have self consciously tried to, to sort of misstate irreducible complexity to get out of it, and that is that the parts of these systems ought to be useless on their own, because as you put them, natural selection would have no way to make them and evolution basically predicts that the parts do other jobs.

MB:
Well, can I just stop you there a second? [clears throat] First of all I, I, you know, I wish you wouldn't say that we are intentionally trying to misrepresent something because we're not. Second is that, I never said that they are useless on their own. As a matter of fact, if you read closely in my book I talk about the microtubules being used in other things, dynein proteins being used in other things, and so on. And, I, I clearly say that, just as I said here tonight, even though they can be used for other things, the problem of irreducibility remains.

KM:
Yeah but you also said that natural selection has no way to make them. And the major components of the cilium include proteins like tubulin, dynein, and actin, and these have distinct functions in the cell that are unrelated to ciliary motion So what can one make of the main argument, which is that parts of an irreducibly complex structure have no function on their own? And remember, your statement, " any precursor that is missing a part is by definition non-functional", but it turns out that these individual parts are fully functional elsewhere in the cell, and there's a selectable function for each of them, and doesn't that mean the argument is wrong?

MB:
No, well, no. [laughter] Alright, I I think you know, perhaps, you know, something in my speech isn't getting through, but I'll, I'll just appeal to the audience. I did not say they have to have no function whatsoever...

KM:
Is the function non-functional?

MB:
I said, I said that the function of the system is missing. I'm happy to admit that similar proteins can have other functions in the cell, but the system loses its function.

KM:
Yeah, your words I think, speak for themselves.

MB:
I don't know...

KM:
Okay, the way I see it Mike is that the reasoning behind Intelligent Design is contained in this slide, which is the one that we talked about before. And point number two is the inference that we can really judge in an empirical basis, and what I've just showed in those three systems, which are your systems, is that that vanishes upon inspection, because those parts are useful and therefore the two conclusions vanish as well. But let me go to the mousetrap since we brought it up and I have a mousetrap here for anyone who doesn't remember what they look like. They've got five parts.

MB:
I've got some.

KM:
Good for you, Excellent. Excellent. The mousetrap... If you have stock in a mousetrap company Behe and I are responsible for your rise in stock [laughter]. Now some of you may have noticed that I am wearing a mousetrap tie clasp. Um, This is a mousetrap from which I have removed two parts, just as Mike said, doesn't work as a mousetrap, works fine as a tie clasp.

ES:
One minute

KM:
Hang on. Okay, Sorry. Sorry I didn't realize who I was talking to. Sorry Genie. [laughter]. Two parts of the mousetrap do very well as a key chain, I'll be selling these as souvenirs later on [laughter] and one part from the mousetrap is quite good as a toothpick. Um, and the point is that the parts of an irreducibly complex machine are fully functional for different purposes. And here's my closing question, Mike. You've brought us four systems as examples of irreducible complexity. And what we've seen as we've gone back and forth is that every one of those systems breaks down upon inspection. The type three secretory system still works although it's lost 75% of its proteins, the clotting cascade still functional despite losing a protein, smaller parts of the mousetrap still work, tubulin and dynein still function outside of the cilium. If ever any idea was subject to an empirical test as easily as the idea of irreducible complexity, this is it, and it looks to me and to any one of us who is looking that this idea has failed in every single test.

ES:
Mike would you like to take a minute to respond.

MB:
Yes, thank you. I appreciate your point of view, but I disagree with you. Uh, your use of the mousetrap is, is very interesting, I, I discussed that on the website, that I flashed up there. Ken has put posted some stuff on his website. Anybody who wants a full discussion that can go beyond the time limits we have, should look those things up. But I still said, in these mousetrap uh, things that that, uh, Ken does, you know, he's using his intelligence to rearrange parts. Um, furthermore, you know, I asked ...

KM:
What parts rearranged?

MB:
Uh, It's my turn. [laughter] I ask people, men in the audience who have tie clips, to take a look at them. Do they look anything like that? [laughter] If so I'm sure you're not here with your girlfriend or your wife [laughter]. That's because, because tie clips would be formed more practically. Ken is using that because he wants to go toward an end. Here is my key chain. It doesn't look like the mousetrap; he only selected the mousetrap key chain because he wants to think you can get to a mousetrap via a random process.

ES:
Thank you. Now there will be five minutes of questions by Rob Pennock for Michael Behe.